The Legal Complaints Review Officer (LCRO) is warning that the office may become overwhelmed by the number of cases it handles.
In its annual report for the year ending 30 June
, it identified volume of cases on hand as its top issue.
“The ability of the office to meet its statutory obligation to deal with the cases that come before it in an expeditious fashion continues to be of concern,” the office wrote. “Previous annual reports have identified the lack of sufficient judicial resource as the single biggest factor which has contributed to the backlog of cases steadily increasing over a number of years.”
The LCRO, which is staffed by three full-time review officers, said that reducing the backlog of cases will only be successful with the appointment of more staff.
It also suggested that the act governing the office should be amended to streamline the review process. It wants review officers to be empowered to summarily dismiss frivolous and vexatious applications, direct certain cases be heard on the papers without a required formal hearing, and require parties filing to have direct connections to the matters of the complaints.
The LCRO received 290 applications in the 12 months to 30 June, up from 278 in the previous comparable period. More than 94% of the review applications – 274 cases – were for standards committee decisions. The office completed 271 reviews in 2016/17, with 238 being for filings made in previous years. The officer reported completing 46 reviews for filings made within six months, 31 for filings made within six to 12 months, and 194 for filings made over 12 months.
The New Zealand Law Society
said that based on their data, 18% of standards committee decisions were subject to review. Of all standards committee decisions reviewed by the LCRO, 9.6% were reversed or partially reversed.
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